Monday, December 27, 2010

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler + Contest!

Published May 8th, 2010.

Mom knew that the mermaids - hand-carved from driftwood by the owner of a souvenir shop - were all I wanted to take home from Florida. As she bought them, she looked down at me, her eyes not just glittering but snapping with fire like two Fourth of July sparklers. She ran her fingers down the length of my nose, almost like you'd stroke a favorite pet, and said to the salesman, "We're just alike, me and Aura."

And you know, back then, the idea of that didn't scare the absolute hell out of me. (book back blurb)

For once, a book about teenagers with real problems. That's not really to undermine the issues that teenagers have. At that age, when you don't have any other worries, what your reputation is, who you're dating, who you're friends with, etc. is everything. But this is real. This is the real that makes all of that other stuff trivial shoe dirt. On the one hand you have a girl that's been saddled with being the sole caregiver to a schizophrenic mother and on the other, you have her friend that could go on the Teen Mom show, complete with deadbeat dad and the 'I know it all and my parents know nothing' attitude.

I was sucked into the story immediately. Aura just has a great voice; so much more mature than a lot of the other stories I read and for good reason. If you had to take care of a mentally ill parent all by yourself, you'd age really quickly too. But while I believed the voice as a whole, I didn't necessarily believe all of the references she made. Like equating her grandmother to Imelda Marcos. I'd like to meet a fifteen-year-old that even knows who Imelda Marcos is let alone how to use her person correctly in a reference joke. But those little things aside, Aura held her own throughout. You see just how strong and solid of a character she is by how she handles everything going on around her. I'm sure a lot of others would have ceased to even function in her situation but Aura carried on strong. She did what she could to protect her mother, who was number one to her even above herself.

But with that being said, it's also a horribly sad situation. You have the deadbeat dad that's perfectly content with stepping out of the situation and saving himself, leaving his teenage daughter to handle the problem that's no longer his because he signed on the dotted line making you empathize with Aura even more. Unfortunately, that really is an all too common situation, sad as it is to say. And the school not stepping in to help out? Unless you have outstanding teachers that actually want to help out their students (or super important students), the public school system is not there to function in that manner. Again, another sad thing to say, but it is true. When your bottom line is to have the kids functioning at a high enough level to bring in government funding, if one slips through the cracks, well, it probably would have been one that brought down the curve anyway. And if there aren't parents there to rally for that child, they're going to fade away. So while I think these elements help to isolate Aura even more and force her to function more independently (thus making them look a little contrived), they're not really out of the ordinary situations and they just made the situation all the more real.

I could have lived without Aura's love interest. I just felt like he was a jerk from the beginning. "Paint my board." No please, not even asking. Just do it. Why haven't you done it yet? Where's my board? I just wanted her to say, "dude, I burned it in the pit in the backyard." Granted he didn't know Aura's situation but even mutually exclusive from that, I thought he was a jerk and not worth the notice Aura was giving him.

I even really liked Janny for the basketcase that she was. New moms in desirable situations have a hard time adjusting and here you have a new mom that's barely 16, just emancipated from her parents and without the sperm donor helping out. As much as I wanted to slap her from backing away from Aura when she needed her (and as much as I didn't think Aura leaning on Janny earlier in life was touched upon like it should have been), I didn't hate her for it. She had enough issues on her plate and she couldn't fit Aura's on there anymore either. I get that. Still, I would have liked to have seen Janny be the lean-to earlier in life (as opposed to just a stronger personality) for Aura in order for the situation to be a little more balanced. While I did understand Janny's situation, without that weight behind it, it looked like she was just plugging her ears, demanding that Aura understand her situation but not offering the same understanding in return. It could have been the way I read it and just missed it. But it looked unbalanced to me.

This book is as real as real can get. It's the effects of a mental illness not on the sick individual but on the family around them. When one spoke is broken, it gets harder and harder for the rest to pick up the slack and that's seen here with Aura and her mom. There is only one path to crazy for Aura and it's through creativity so she tries to stifle it as much as she can, in herself and her mom when she gets too bad. Stamp out the crazy and you can stamp out the sickness, keep it from coming back to haunt. At times it's painful to read but it's something that should be read. I'm sure there are more kids going through something like this than the numbers care to admit and like Aura, they're suffering with it. They're beating themselves up over their decisions when they shouldn't even be making decisions like that in the first place. It's sad but Aura's strength is revitalizing. Throughout the entire story it's a beacon of hope. You can see she knows what the right thing to do is. The real right thing to do. It just takes her a while to actually get there.

This is one of those stand-out books in the pile that is YA. There's nothing paranormal about it. There's no love triangle. Actually there's barely any love at all and what love is there is shredded, stressed to its breaking point. But there's perseverance and strength and you won't be able to help but root for Aura from beginning to end. You want everything to work out okay for her. You're desperate for it. It just has to. And that'll keep you turning the pages until the end.

Contest Time!!!

Want my copy? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends January 17th at midnight, EST.


(Arya) Paige said...

Great review! The book sounds awesome!! (=

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Thanks for the review--I love realistic fiction...And other genres, yes, but I love meeting realistic characters that I can connect with. Thanks.

Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) said...

This review was brilliant. Every word you said is true. And this book was so fantastically and horrifically raw. Loved it.

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

Awesome review! Now I really, really want to read this. Thanks for the giveaway :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant review! A very standout YA novel for sure. Love this book.

Anonymous said...

Talk about intense. Great review and thanks for the contest.

Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

I like the sound of this one a lot.

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